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Capturing Images in Stanhopes


 Ken Scott


In the late 1990’s my wife Jean Scott was involved in research concerning the origin, history and range of Stanhope collectables, and eventually she decided to publish the results. Very early on it became apparent that no book about Stanhopes would be complete without the inclusion of enlarged photos of the microscopic images. The problem was that neither of us had any idea how to do this.


I began experimenting with a 35mm film camera clamped to a borrowed microscope and with help and advice from various people I was able to take enough pictures of the microphotographs for the necessary illustrations. “Stanhopes: A Closer View” was eventually published in 2002, with credits to these early helpers. Meanwhile, I had discovered that the most time and money-consuming elements of the project came from the fact that, when using a film camera, you have no idea of your results until the developing and printing process has been carried out: sometimes not a single photograph from a whole roll of film was suitable!  Therefore for the 150 or so microphotographic images published in the book, I took approximately 2500 shots. Also, all photographs of the image must be taken at the flat (plane) end of the Stanhope lens, rather than through the magnifying curved (convex) surface at the opposite end. This results in a reverse image, which had to be corrected when the negatives were printed.


Some time after the publication of Jean’s book, I replaced the film camera with a digital camera and this made the whole process much easier, though still requiring a fastidious attention to detail.  However, the inversion of the photograph is much easier with digital technology and the time between photography and a good result is obtained within a few minutes rather than several hours or days.


           a)      b) 


a)    Photograph of a Stanhope image from the plane end of the lens.

b)    Edited (reversed, cropped and enlarged) version of the same image.


Today, I use the following equipment:

  • A Nikon Coolpix 995 Digital Single Lens Reflex camera of about 2002 vintage.
  • A monocular student compound microscope.
  • An adapter to connect the camera to the microscope – the adapter replaces the eyepiece of the microscope and itself has a magnification of 10x.
  • A standard laptop PC with MS picture manager and Adobe Photoshop software.


The camera and microscope set-up looks like this:




As with all such procedures, there are some difficulties.  The most frequent of these concerns the mounting of the Stanhope object on the microscope stage (platform) so that flat end of the Stanhope lens is in the same plane as the stage; any variation will lead to some part of the image being out of focus. Also, some Stanhope objects just can not be mounted such that the objective approaches close enough to the Stanhope lens.


I am often asked about the magnification achieved.  The easy answer to that is 40 times (40x) because the ocular/eyepiece lens in the adapter is 10 times (10x) and the objective lens usually used is 4 times (4x).  However, my aim is not to achieve an exact magnification but to produce a publishable reproduction of the microphotograph.  I therefore use the through-the-lens optical zoom on the Coolpix 995 to enlarge the image enough to fill the camera frame. I then frequently modify the size of the image to fit the page composition.  Clearly, this lack of magnification precision would not be acceptable if one was trying to extrapolate the exact size of some object shown within the microphotographic image, but this is not normally the case. Those who collect and research Stanhope collectables require only to see a recognisable printed reproduction of the image visible to the human eye through the magnifying end of a Stanhope lens. Finally, although I use MS Picture Manager and Adobe Photoshop to edit my photos I never attempt to improve them to be better than the quality that is seen by the naked eye looking at the Stanhope microphotographic image.

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